(B.26) Crystal Palace High Level Railway Station

Information compiled by Ray Sacks 6 February 2005

Friends of the Great North Wood produced a walking leaflet for the old railway route called 'From the Nun's Head to the Screaming Alice'. This strangely named route closely follows the line of the former railway from Nunhead to Crystal Palace ('Screaming Alice' in Cockney rhyming slang). The 8 km walk goes via the old High Level Crystal Palace Station, down past the Crystal Palace Museum and on to the existing Crystal Palace Station.

The High Level Crystal Palace Railway Station

Opened : 1 August 1865
Closed : 20 September 1954

The railway was begun in 1862 from Nunhead to serve the Crystal Palace which had been built on Sydenham Hill in 1854. It went through Sydenham Hill Woods, the Dulwich College Estates, two tunnels and opened in 1865 with one station - Charles Barry's Gothic terminus - but other stations were soon added. The fortunes of the railway waned with those of the Palace and declined after the Palace burned down in 1936. It was closed during the war and the re-opening on 4 January 1946 was unsuccessful with the station in a poor state of repair. The shuttle service was reintroduced with some peak hour trains to and from Blackfriars. Passenger numbers didn't improve however with many trains during the day running almost empty so the first permanent closure of the now electric line was inevitable; this came on 20 September 1954. The last service ran in 1954, the track was lifted in 1956 and the terminus demolished in 1961.

The track bed was built on in some places but in others it has been allowed to revert to nature.

The map below shows the spread of the High Level Station and its track- most of that area is now housing and a rest home, set a few metres below the level of the Crystal Palace Parade (The Palace Road, The Palace Parade...)


The map below shows the relative locations of the High Level Station and the "Low Level Station" to the Palace building:


Tunnel Entrance today (as seen by passengers who would have been heading to Upper Sydenham):



1 - The Godfrey Edition - Old Ordinance Survey Maps Crystal Palace 1871

2 - Streatham Guardian - Memory Lane "Station made an impression" 20 May 2003

"Imagine boarding a steam train at Peckham Rye Station, chugging along to Nunhead and then steaming past One Tree Hill and Horniman Gardens, under the bridge at Cox's Walk, through Sydenham Hill Woods until Crystal Palace High Level Station is reached."

- from Southwark Remembered, from the Changing Times series, compiled by John D Beasley, published by Tempus, Stroud, price £10.99.

3 - http://www.pendar.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Tube/CrystalPalace.html

More pictures - but the Streatham Guardian article quoted is out of date - the Consortium doesn't exist any longer and the Campaign questionnaire has been published (see this website).

4 - Disused Stations (website) - http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/stations/u/upper_sydenham/index.shtml

More pictures. Source: London's Local Railways by Alan A Jackson - David & Charles 1978 ISBN 0 7153 7479

5 -

6 - Since the High Level Station was the end of the line, it was equipped with an engine turntable - a good picture of this can be found in The Crystal Palace by Patrick Beaver (Phillimore 1986). Another famous London engine turntable location is the Roundhouse, Camden, London.

7 - More history in The Phoenix Suburb by Alan R Warwick (Blue Boar Press 2nd Ed. 1982) - Chapter Seven, Days of Change.

"The Crystal Palace High Level Station was built to the design of Edward Barry. The Parade lost much, both architecturally and in sheer usefulness, when the Railway was closed and sent into the oblivion of so many of the better things of Norwood.... Those were the days when the Crystal Palace Parade would take on a touch of Rotten Row. Norwood was self assured and confident, the Parade the focal point of the Cockney crowds on their way to the delights of the Crystal Palace......"


Special Note: In September 2004 a commemorative walk was arranged along the old Nunhead to Crystal Palace route = unfortunately, the information has been lost. Anyone who knows more about the walk, please contact us.

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6/2/2005 Last Updated 6/2/2005